The Philadelphia, Reading, Allentown and York School Districts are all in financial crisis. Many others in Pennsylvania are as well.
Sixty-two, 62% and seven 7% of the Reading District’s revenue come from State and Federal sources respectively. With State funding being cut, this district and many others face an uncertain future.
The property values in Reading are very low and unlikely to grow in the near future. Forty-one percent, 41% of the residents live below the official poverty line.
There are a lot of deficits in Public Education, but the deficit in leadership is central. The funding of public education, pensions, labor unions and the general decline in the family unit and in urban America are all factors as well. These are complex and not easy to remedy. What can be remedied and I think could make a big difference is in leadership.
For instance, why is it that Educational Leaders must come with an Ed.D? They are being asked to manage hundreds and sometimes thousands of employees, complex finances and large construction and building projects. These kinds of skills require a more seasoned CEO than what comes up from the ranks of education, for the most part.
This CEO position has the potential to hire the best and brightest Principal’s and the create the culture of excellence in learning and in education. School Boards, while locally elected are not that accountable to the voters, mostly because of apathy. Until we can really get qualified Superintendent’s in place, I don’t expect a lot of positive change to happen.
I think parents, the local business community and business and other leaders are going to have to step up and get involved in their local districts and in education overall. Some issues like pension reform, funding of public education and urban and family distress cannot be solved on a district by district basis. Here, leadership at all levels need to get involved. The least important, in my view is the Federal leadership. Whether a Democrat or a Republican is elected President is less important than the quality of leadership at the local level.